Kent Schaufelberger, one of our members who has extensive experience in disaster response, has sent us this helpful information from his collegue Vicky Johnson who works in emergency management:
Even as initial assessments are still being conducted in Haiti to determine the type, location and extent of damage that will ultimately guide decisions about where to send precious resources first – many people are asking how they can help. Following are some things to consider:
- Contribute money to disaster relief organizations that you know and trust. Check with local offices or online websites to see if the organization is involved in disaster relief for the Haiti earthquake. Be sure to get receipts for your contributions. Relief organizations are often in a better position to determine where the needs are and what materials and supplies they need most at a given point in time. With cash contributions, they also have more control over the purchase, delivery and distribution – which can be very helpful.
- Be wary of solicitations, particularly for money, from organizations that you don’t know or that have suddenly formed and are asking for donations. While many fundraising efforts may be legitimate, a major disaster is also an opportunity for criminals to take and keep money from well meaning contributors.
- Sending equipment, materials and supplies is generally not recommended unless a trusted organization has determined a specific need and has a clear plan to collect, deliver and distribute the donations. Always check before you contribute items to make sure that the need still exists and be sure that what you send is in good condition (i.e., this is not the time to donate overstock or items you simply want to get rid of).
- Unsolicited donations can literally cause a secondary disaster for relief workers and a community that is already struggling with chaos.
- If you wish to volunteer to help, do so through a bona fide organization and relief effort that you can verify and trust. As with unsolicited supplies, people arriving without provisions, coordination or a specific mission become a part of the overall problem.
CNN has a website with some organizations that you might consider. Also, check in your local community with disaster relief organizations that you know to see if they involved in the relief efforts.
Note: On the CNN website page you will find a link to the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) contribution page in the list of agencies providing basic needs, or you may go directly there from the link in the “Help Haiti” entry below.